At the St. Louis Cardinals game on Sunday, April 28th, Busch Stadium celebrated Transplant Awareness Day to honor families of organ donors and transplant recipients. The event brought together two families in a chance encounter that ended in tears.
The siblings of Donovan Bulger attended the game that day to commemorate their brother, who at just 21-years-old lost his life in 2016 in a car accident. Before his death, Donovan elected to be an organ donor, a decision that his siblings say saved many lives. Donovan’s sister Savannah Roesch told CNN, “We try to attend events to help spread awareness. We were all standing there representing our brother when we heard someone ask, ‘Are you Donovan’s family?'”
It was the recipient of Donovan’s heart. 65-year-old John Sueme received a new heart in 2016 after being in heart failure for five years. Following his transplant, he wrote a letter to the donor’s family. “I followed guidelines, I can’t name myself, it was a general letter thanking them for this tremendous gift. Several months later I received a letter from Savannah and enclosed were two pictures of Donovan.”
The Bulger family attended the Cardinals game that day wearing one of the photos emblazoned on bright green shirts that read, “brother, organ donor and hero.” It was Sueme’s daughter who instantly recognized Donovan’s photo. The two families were thrilled to run into each other and broke down in tears when Sueme let each of Donovan’s siblings listen to their brother’s heart. They were there to honor Donovan’s memory and it turned out he was closer to them than they thought.
Currently, there are more than 111,000 people on the national transplant waiting list according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Hopefully, that number will shrink as more people make the selfless decision to become an organ donor, just like Donovan Bulger.